Life with Your Form-Based Code

Monday, May 8, 2017 | 2:45 p.m. - 4 p.m.
CM | 1.25
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Congratulations! The shiny, new form-based code is finally adopted and it is now yours to administer “from this day forward, for better, for worse…until death do us part.”  And now is when you learn that a long-term relationship with your new code takes more than a little time and effort!  A regulation that made perfect sense to you while in the drafting process now is subject to four dueling interpretations by four different applicants.  Elected officials who were so supportive about moving to form-based regulations suddenly want to know why the local car dealership, owned by a long-time civic leader, can’t rebuilt on their site “just like before.”  And some of the new standards that were designed to improve certainty and ensure the creation of a better community fabric now seem constraining and rigid in practice.  This session explores ways to ensure a long, healthy relationship with your zoning code, including:  finding flexibility you didn’t know was there, determining when an interpretation or clarification should trigger a code amendment, supporting code administrators through focused training and continuing education, and persevering through the ups and downs of a new code learning curve.

You'll learn about:

  • How form-based regulations function in individual sections and across the code as a whole

  • How to troubleshoot form-based regulations in day-to-day use

  • How to help your staff and community embrace form-based regulations to make the most of a form-based code

The objective of this session is to take a deeper dive beyond the usual “why” and “how” to adopt a form-based code, and instead focus on what the day-to-day functioning of a form-based zoning code really looks and feels like.  Topics will range from the macro-level of applying the intent of districts, standards, and design elements, to the micro-level of site plan review and coordination with other municipal code requirements.  The session starts by working through, with the audience’s participation, the functional purpose of each section of a typical form-based zoning code to ensure code administrators understand how the different components of a form-based code work alone and in concert with each other.  This exercise helps to discern a form-based code’s overall “philosophy,” and provides code administrators with the grounding to more easily apply and interpret the code’s regulations over time.

With a common understanding of how a form-based code should work, the session will explore a variety of situations where conflicts often arise during the development review process, and what practical methods may address and resolve them.  The presentation then turns to how to introduce your form-based code to essential internal and external users, with a particular emphasis on training (for both staff and the development community), education of elected and appointed officials, and vigorous public/customer outreach and communication. 

Finally, the session will wrap-up with a discussion of how to stay engaged when the full reality of implementing what can be a very radical change (from traditional code to form-based) sinks in.  Discussion is propelled by the presenters’ real-life experiences and by audience participation and questions; throughout, presenters will share reality-tested advice on how to tackle the invariable and sometimes daunting challenges that come with implementing a new form-based code.  Throughout the session, we will provide encouragement and suggestions for using the form-based code both functionally and creatively to allow communities to get the best results out of their new regulations. 


Nancy Stroud , AICP , Lewis, Stroud & Deutsch, P.L. , Boca Raton , FL
Tina Axelrad , City& County of Denver , Denver , CO (see bio)
Elizabeth Garvin , AICP , SAFEbuilt Studio , Northglenn , CO (see bio)